Promoted to Management? 3 Keys to Becoming a Great Manager

By Ginny Trierweiler, Ph.D., Ginny Trierweiler Consulting


“Promoted” from psychologist to mental health center manager and director more than 20 years ago, I had the opportunity to experience first-hand the excitement and disillusionment, pitfalls and opportunities that accompanied this “promotion.”  Since then, I have promoted, trained, and coached many new managers and would like to share, based on many mistakes and lessons learned, some of the keys to a successful transition to management.

1.  Achieve Role Clarity.  It is important to become clear about what has changed, and what hasn’t, in the transition from front-line peer to supervisor/ manager.  I have watched many managers struggle with understanding what’s changed and what hasn’t in their new role, and  if this confusion lingers for a year or two, it can become quite exhausting!

It’s not ALL new– you’re still you!  But, one important change is that your job performance now hinges on how well others do their work.  If you were promoted because you were a star performer, that means those you now supervise are not performing at your level.  It took one set of skills to be good at your prior job, and will require another set of skills to help others achieve high levels of job performance.

I recommend journaling about this so you can figure it out in a reasonable time frame.  If you just create two columns and make some notes in each every night– what’s changed, what hasn’t–you will develop greater clarity in a more reasonable time.  If you spend 2 minutes per day working to achieve this clarity, it will make a big difference!

2. Acknowledge the Power Differences.  Depending on your organization’s purpose, culture, and the leaders’ style, there may be great or little broad participation in directions and decisions– or something in between.

If you were promoted because you were a star performer, you probably have great ideas about how to better utilize the wisdom of the front line staff.  Just don’t delude yourself into thinking you’re going to overhaul the organization’s culture overnight, getting front-line staff input incorporated into every major decision!

Part of recognizing that your supervisor has organizational power is realizing that they are moving forward an agenda that comes from somewhere that makes sense somehow.  Realize that it will take time to incorporate your agendas into the list of priorities.  You may well be able to make your organization function in a more collaborative and participatory way, but you can develop your wisdom as a manager by realizing that the changes you envision will not happen overnight.  Spend a substantial amount of time developing your understanding of what your boss’ priorities are and what they need to succeed.  You will need this understanding to succeed at “managing up.”

It is also important to acknowledge the power you have over your supervisees.  Of course, it’s pretty important that you understand that hierarchical differences in the workplace don’t mean anything about who is the better person!  But, there are differences in power in most workplaces.  When you ask your former teammates for input now, they experience it differently than when you asked as a peer.  The staff you supervise are aware that you will conduct their performance evaluation and have  power to control their opportunities for a raise, bonus, or promotion.  So, you don’t want to lord your new power over people– that’s a recipe for disaster.  But, failing to acknowledge power differences is also likely to result in people getting hurt.  I have seen so many friendships destroyed and jobs lost over a new manager’s unwillingness to acknowledge that power differences exist!

3. Give Clear Expectations and Feedback.  I have found that many new managers want to manage in a friendly, collegial style. Part of what they hope NOT to lose in this transition is their friendship with former peers.  This is understandable.  Furthermore, a collegial style can be very effective– and you certainly want to continue to be a genuine, likable person.

But you also have to be clear about standards and expectations, and to give constructive feedback.   The vast majority of people you supervise want to do a good job and they want to be recognized for doing a good job.  This can’t happen if you fail to be clear about expectations and give clear feedback about where they’re hitting the target and where they’re not.

If you were a star performer, it follows that those you now supervise may not be hitting the standards you were hitting.  If it is your expectation (or your boss’ expectation) that the workgroup begins to hit higher standards, you have to make that expectation explicit and work with the group to find out if they need some help to achieve the new, higher standards.  Otherwise, you and they are set up for failure in this new working relationship.

But, let’s be clear– giving clear expectations is NOT the same as micromanaging!  They need to be clear about the goal and how it’s measured, but they don’t have to get to the goal in exactly the way you did.

More keys to becoming a great manager in upcoming blog posts…


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Dr. Ginny Trierweiler is a leadership coach and organizational consultant with expertise in human growth and development and 20 years’ experience mentoring leaders, managers, and executives.

Please call or email if you would like to talk to me about consulting or coaching. Get in touch at or 720-443-5056

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